I have pastored here in the states now for a total of 17 years. 9 of those years in my current ministry. I also served as a missionary for 20 years. I traveled preaching and presenting my ministry in many churches. I still travel preaching mission’s conferences, etc.
I wanted to put together some things that would help you as a pastor be more of a blessing to your missionaries. This will also help the missionaries as I will bring this to you from their point of view.
- Thank you for being upfront and honest with the missionary that you don’t have missionaries in to speak if there is absolutely no way you will support them.
- Thank you for caring so much for the missionary and his family that you pray for them and ask personal questions about how they are doing. The missionaries meet so many people and say the same thing in almost every church. It really makes the missionary feel like a person when you go the extra mile to take an interest in their life and ask them questions that are deeper than the normal questions.
- Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak from your pulpit. Thank you for honoring them as heroes. It reminds them of the great task and responsibility and honor they have as a missionary of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Thank you for the generous financial gift, gift baskets and housing, etc. The missionaries know that you don’t have to give them anything and they are humbled to receive such generosity from you.
- Thank you for treating them like a man of God and not like a boy.
In other articles I talk to the missionaries and spend hours teaching them. This one is for pastors.
- Get a good calendar and keep up with it. Nothing is as discouraging to the missionary as driving 5 hours one way to hear the pastor say ” I forgot.” The missionary has been praying for the meeting, and drove 5 hours to get there.
One missionary drove from Atlanta to Memphis for a Sunday AM meeting on Easter. When the missionary arrived, the pastor cancelled the meeting because he had forgotten it was Easter. The missionary got less than $100 as a love offering and was told to call to reschedule.
Another missionary got to church where he had a scheduled meeting. No one was there yet; front door was open; so the missionaries went in, set up their display on an empty desk in the foyer! People started showing up for Sunday School which supposedly starts at 9:45. The pastor came in auditorium at 9:50 thru the back. He walked to the foyer where the missionary was standing and shook his hand. The pastor then said that he was going to have to reschedule the missionary (even though the missionary had called 4 days prior on Wednesday and confirmed with the church secretary. He said he forgot to call the missionary on Friday to cancel. The pastor said he would schedule the missionary to come on a Sunday night in the summer. Pastor said the missionary could still have a couple minutes in the service to say something. The missionary simply told the pastor that he knew of another church nearby that he could visit since he was going to have them come back later. The pastor said that would be fine. The missionary got his family together and packed up their display. The pastor said that they were tight on dollars and that was why he had to cancel.
- Honor your commitments. When you cancel on a missionary the day before the meeting, he not only loses a meeting, but any income from a love offering. Love offerings pay their bills especially while they are getting started.
- Please respect his time as well as yours. If you know you can’t have them in with a chance of support, don’t have them. A 30 minute explanation on the phone of why you can’t have them in isn’t fun, either.
- Don’t think the missionaries are judging you. Missionaries often feel like pastors are making excuses as to why attendance is down, or things aren’t where the pastor wants. The missionaries are just excited at the opportunity to present the ministry and have no desire to judge you for the size of your building, congregation, etc…
- Stop sending ridiculous questionnaires. Ask about doctrine, ask about ministry plans and philosophy, ask reasonable questions you or your pastor friends wouldn’t mind answering but stop asking what the missionary’s wife wears to bed.
- Stop treating the missionary like an inferior. He may be younger than you, or have less ministry experience than you, but God has called him, just like He’s called you, and you are on the same team.
One missionary said that he was introduced with, “I know we all got socks older than this kid, but listen as he preaches anyway.” And that sounds really funny, until you’re the 65 year old speaker, being introduced by a 25 year old pastor who says, “I know this guy is older than Noah, and personally knew Isaiah, but pay attention to him anyway.” Missionaries are no less men of God than pastors and evangelists.
Please do not treat the missionary like a beggar. You won’t hear them beg, unless it’s for people to live more for Jesus and get the gospel to the world or for more laborers for the harvest.
Please do not ignore the missionary as if he were just a person you can’t wait to see leave.
- Stop putting them in the roach coach motel. They are never going to complain about a free room, but one missionary said that he stayed in a motel with cigarette burns on the sheets, mysterious stains on the wall, an odd smell, and no heat. It was single digit temperature outside.
- Please don’t take your young people out of the service when a missionary is there! This frustrates any missionary. Your young people are intelligent enough to understand missions. Many of our friends are missionaries because of God calling them to the field during a missionary presentation. The missionary wants to preach to your young people! Don’t send them away, please!
- Don’t tell the missionary you’ll call back if you won’t. It’s a running joke that two of the biggest lies in baptist churches are “I’ll call you back, missionary,” and, “the pastor is unavailable/in a meeting.” I’m sure you do have meetings a lot, but let’s be honest, we all know that’s occasionally code for “I don’t want to talk to the missionary.”
If your answering machines says “leave a message and I will call you back “and you don’t call me back you are lying to me. Missionaries get this message every day. They leave a message and never hear back from the pastor. Change your answering machine to something more truthful.
Don’t cuss the missionary for calling your cell phone? You have it so people can reach you. Does that not include missionaries.
- Please do not assume that this missionary is like all the other missionaries you have in. Just like pastors differ from pastor to pastor. He is a unique missionary. He is not like everyone else.
All the above things came from missionaries that I spoke with in the last few weeks. I know that the majority of things that happen on deputation are positive. I am a firm believer in deputation. I think deputation works great.
I would like to add that 99% of deputation is positive for the missionaries. I have written this so that you can see some of the hurtful things. I know you want to avoid those.
I do think that most pastors would like to know how to do things right. I am sure that some of the pastors mentioned were having a bad day. I am sure however that if it were your son or daughter on deputation you would want them treated differently.
If you were the pastor of that missionary you would want them treated differently. Let’s treat them like we would want to be treated if we were on deputation.
I remember when I started deputation after 8 years as a pastor. A missionary joked that I would now reap what I had sown. I told him that I sure didn’t want to. I had no idea what I was doing to the missionaries when I was a young pastor.
I gave them very small love offerings. I thought that they were kind of weird. I didn’t respect them like I should have.
Will you take this post to heart. My wife says that I might lose some friends here. I hope not. That is certainly not my intention.
I would love to hear from you. Let’s talk it over.